Tips for small businesses on their first office search

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search buttonFinding a great office can be a hugely important step on the road to success for a small business. Business can not only outgrow their existing space, but even for those who want to remain small, escaping the distractions of a home-working environment by moving into a space specifically designed for working can give a real boost to productivity and provide a great sense of identity. Of course, when you’re searching it’s essential for small business owners to do all the most common-sense things: including shopping around, getting out to view properties and so on. But it’s also worth bearing in mind a few of the following pointers:

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What gets measured in the workplace, gets managed

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MeasureAre we finally seeing the first signs of the end of the downturn?  Earlier this week the Government announced that UK unemployment had fallen. While I know there have been quibbles about what this all meant, other data from specific market sectors backs up the idea that we may be seeing some tentative causes for hope.  One of the most heartening was last week’s survey from Randstad which reported growing levels of optimism among financial services firms about their prospects and the fact that the majority would be increasing headcount this year.

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Tipping point reached in battle between tablets and PCs

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Surface proThe signs of the final showdown between the personal computer and the tablet are now all around us. It is evident in the launch of new products such as Microsoft’s Surface and the new generation of more powerful iPads which can (nearly) match the performance of Apple’s own laptops. It is also evident in the restructuring of firms like Dell, once the world’s most successful PC maker. The end result will not only be a new shape for the products on which we work but also a new shape for the places in which we work. Our postures will change and so too will the things we need to support us.  More →

Whatever the office of the future is, it should be there to serve people

Whatever the office of the future is, it should be there to serve people

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Larkin BuildingFuturology is notoriously a mug’s game. Especially when it comes to making predictions about technology. Just ask Ken Olson, the founder of DEC who in 1977 pronounced that ‘there is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home’. Or Bill Gates himself who once claimed that Microsoft ‘will never make a 32 bit operating system’. But that shouldn’t make us blind to those predictions that we know will largely come true, not least those based on what we know is happening in the present. This is typified by research carried out by Cass Business School and Henley Business School and presented in a book called Future Work: How Businesses Can Adapt and Thrive in the New World of Work. It found that two-thirds of the 360 managers it surveyed believe that there would be a revolution in working practices over the coming decade. Ninety per cent said that staff were more productive when empowered to decide when and where and how to work.

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Video: The 21st Century Office – how the BBC got it all wrong in 1969

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Two days ago we published a strikingly prescient report from Walter Cronkite dating from 1967 about how the world of work would look in the 21st century. Two years later the BBC was to get things hopelessly wrong, not only with its tired and misguided wannabe existentialism, but also with its vision of a future which was clearly just a slightly mechanised plasticky version of the present. That’s often the problem with futurology. It tells you more about the time in which people are making their predictions than any real vision of what is to come.

Plenty of innovation in Stockholm. Just ignore the price of beer.

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Nendo Stockholm

They say first impressions count so after landing in Stockholm it was a shame that mine veered towards a personal negative rather than a positive when I discovered that my hotel room interior was purer in design than a polar bear’s coat. To a problem solving mind like mine, this didn’t add up. Surely the cold climate would venture towards a more luxurious, cosy and comforting aesthetic. My second impression inevitably arrived courtesy of a local bar. I could have sworn I’d ordered a 40cl beer rather than the bottle of Bolly the bill suggested. So with those problems dismissed from my mind, it was heartening that the rest of the trip to the Stockholm Furniture and Light Fair was roundly positive.

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Video: Why designers need to design for our ears too

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A subject too often ignored but about which we now have a great deal of research is that of acoustic comfort. Insight has covered the subject before, but the fact remains that too often we design for our eyes far more than our ears. What we also know to be true is that we are becoming more acutely aware of the issue as our workplaces change both in terms of the space each of us is allocated and our exposure to others in the name of collaboration. In this TED talk Julian Treasure of The Sound Agency considers how we might design our surrounding in ways to improve our acoustic comfort.

What Ronald McDonald can teach us about office design

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McDonalds1As the UK continues to agonise over the potentially equine provenance of many of its beef products, one firm that has managed to stay above it all is McDonald’s. While rivals Burger King quickly became embroiled in the scandal after traces of horsemeat were found in its Burgers, McDonalds ramped up its claims in the national media that it only uses 100 per cent beef. McDonald’s has had a pretty good couple of years, and not all of it is down to the food. During 2012, the company spent $1.45bn this year on giving 2,400 stores a makeover. It claims that it has now revamped 90 per cent of its UK stores. More →

Video: A new kind of job market, or the commoditisation of work?

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At a TED talk delivered in London at the end of 2012, Wingham Rowan, project director of Slivers-of-Time, a ‘work marketplace’, says that websites such as his are thriving by bringing together what he terms ultra-flexible workers with employers to deliver short periods of work on specific tasks. The question is: whether this is a valuable tool in providing flexible work opportunities for appropriate people or the most advanced example we yet have of how labour is increasingly commoditised, casualised and disposable?

A Field Guide to Workplace Terminology

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DictionaryAs the ecosystem around the workplace industry grows ever more complex, so too does the language we use to describe it. In an attempt to bring order to chaos, guest writer Simon Heath presents here a glossary of terms, acronyms and abbreviations to help you navigate these linguistic waters. (For example Business Intelligence – A commonly used oxymoron.) For more of Simon’s worldly, wise and witty writing on all things work and workplace related, visit his blog at https://workmusing.wordpress.com.

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Plans to convert offices may undermine innovation and growth

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Old Street roundabout regenerationWhatever they might think, Governments don’t have a natural propensity for joined up thinking. Nor do they have a natural affinity with small businesses, especially those that emerge in non-traditional sectors. Governments may like to claim they can display both of these noble values, but experience tells us different. One thing they are prone to, however, is a frequent ability to fall victim to unfortunate juxtapositions of complex events that throw their inherent weaknesses into sharp relief.

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A train that symbolises the clash of old and new ways of work

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Today we’ll all be hearing a lot more about the plans for HS2, the Government’s flagship construction project and all-round Keynesian boot in the pants for the UK economy. Most of what will pass for debate will involve some light class warfare about the route through Tory constituencies, seasoned with a dash of NIMBYism, some chest beating from Labour who started the whole thing but can’t be seen to support it fully and various other bits of pointless to-ing and fro-ing. But what is most remarkable about the scheme as far as Insight is concerned, is how its business case completely and deliberately ignores the way we work. More →

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